The adjustment controls integrated into a dispatch console evolve just like the technology the console is designed to hold. The catalyst for change at the manufacturing level is typically related to updates in safety and ergo standards, and feedback from users related to comfort preferences. For the PSAP, seeking out new features may be inspired by dispatcher complaints about current features, a renovation, a move, fluctuation in staffing, or team consolidation.
Regardless why you are considering new console options, you should know that well-designed consoles help improve user satisfaction and PSAP team performance.
Improve PSAP performance
In previous Tech Trend Installments, we have shared the relevance of emerging monitor technology, the value of well-designed data management solutions, and space-saving alternatives to conventional PCs.
In this installment, we'll share how user-centered console workstations promote efficiency and engagement among dispatchers. And, specifically, the value that console accessories provide.
You should expect your console to be height-adjustable and may opt for monitors with focal depth flexibility. But a well-designed console must do more than that: it must be designed for the one thing every console has:
Today’s manufacturers keep the user in mind when designing consoles. The best manufacturers also consider the IT technician and facility manager and how the console design impacts them.
One of the ways Watson has put user-groups first, for instance, is to:
- enable one button adjustment of the desk and monitor array height so the workstation can be used from a sitting or standing position,
- provide multiple access points for IT maintenance, and
- offer modular consoles that can easily be reconfigured as needs change.
No surprise to the dispatcher, however, it's the small things that can make the biggest difference.
LEDs are obviously taking over in both the home and commercial market. Compared to halogen and incandescent, they last longer, operate at a far lower temperature, and are readily available. The type of bulb impacts energy efficiency. The position and function of the light impacts user productivity.
All Watson consoles have adjustable task light. Mercury also has ambient light to help reduce eye strain. Both task and ambient light strength are customizable to ensure that each user has all the light he or she needs: no more and no less.
If you put four people in a room, they’ll disagree on two things.
- Lighting (which we’ve covered)
It’s too hot! It’s too cold! This is the common cry in many commercial spaces and something we talked in depth about in Best Heating & Cooling Options for Dispatch Consoles. This pain point is why furniture manufacturers are placing a heavy emphasis on getting their environment controls just right. Dispatchers who are physically comfortable have stronger focus for longer stretches of time.
To promote optimal user focus and comfort, Watson re-designed the environment controls from the ground up using feedback from active dispatchers in the field.
Conventional solutions that use radiant heat provide too little heat, and forced air solutions create way too much, require too many watts, and can be a safety hazard.
The most efficient heating system, found on Watson's Mercury, is a forced air model that draws only 400 watts. The system is UL 962 certified for both fire safety and user personal safety. Properly placed, an energy efficient unit will keep users comfortable when ambient room temperature is less than ideal.
Placement of fans is another common complaint of console users. Many designs position air vents in places that do not effectively cool the user - too low, too far to the side. Watson's Mercury system uses adjustable, low voltage cooling fans that are integrated into the surface dash. The user receives air that can be adjusted across the upper torso and as high as the face - effectively cooling the body.
To further ensure a comfortable temperature, Mercury has an active, low-noise cooling system in all technology cabinets to keep equipment at optimal temperatures, and prevent that heat from affecting the user.
Plug and go functionality
As we all know, wireless headphones, keyboards and mice are something other people use: not PSAPs. Battery life, interference, unreliability … pick your reason, but wireless equipment won’t be on the dispatch console any day soon. So, furniture manufacturers are choosing to work with this “problem,” using it as a guide for design and to improve performance.
Watson, and other manufacturers, include a tech bay that can houses top-of-surface ports for connecting work tools. Because the connections do not need to be made at the PC or monitor, cords can also be shorter. Consoles with this plug and go functionality enable an operator to have his or her own keyboard, mouse and headphones, which appeals to those concerned about ergonomics and/or germ sharing in shift-work environments.
As an added benefit, if someone happens to spill coffee on a keyboard, another can be hot swapped without having to snake a cable through the entire console.
Which brings us to …
Yes, cup holders! Not only do a lot of dispatchers ask for them, they are useful. For instance, coffee in a cup holder can’t short out a keyboard! When evaluating this sought-after-accessory, check out how they're made and how they're attached. Several console manufacturers only offer plastic cup holders. These will likely break in short order thanks to interference from chair arms. Some manufacturers, including Watson, fabricate their own steel cup holders - they are designed and manufactured to stand the test of time.
It’s just a small thing, but it’s important to dispatchers who spend long hours at their station and want to stay hydrated (or caffeinated).
Console status lights are a useful addition to any PSAP. Wired into the phones, radios, and other applications, the status light shows everyone when a dispatcher is on a call and whether they’re talking or not, ensuring no interruptions during tense situations. The status light can also be triggered manually to call a supervisor, or alert a supervisor when a dispatcher has walked away from the desk. In large centers and when supervisor stations are set apart, the visual communication the status light provides helps keep the team operating smoothly.
The number of speakers on a typical console has spiked in the past ten years. The additional pieces of hardware are overwhelming desktops with speakers and cords. Watson’s contribution is to integrate speakers into the furniture by moving customers toward sound bars instead of freestanding computer speakers. We developed an adapter plate that allows speakers on sound bars to be mounted underneath any monitor. This frees up the work surface for mission critical work tools. This also benefits the IT team by controlling and/or eliminating extra cable length, reducing supply and maintenance cost.
In your PSAP, privacy screens provide sound dampening which is an important feature especially when call volume is high. Dispatchers have shared a preference for shoulder-height upholstered panels and transparent toppers. The configuration offers both sound dampening and keeps sight lines open. This can be important when hand-signaling is used to solicit additional support during an active call. When comparing panel options among manufacturers, look for panels that provide added function like tackability, white boards or magnetic surfaces.
Small things provide big value
Optimally functional features and added accessories are just as critical to the performance of your furniture (and your dispatchers) as cable management systems, data management, monitors, PCs and software. Ensuring dispatchers have consoles with good ergonomics is one part of it, but when consoles can be personalized, it helps contribute to dispatcher engagement, employee satisfaction and general workplace wellness.
So, when you choose a console we encourage you to consider all the big things: ergo, data, storage, configuration, modularity. And look at the small things as well. Chances are—in the long run—they’ll be just as important to your operation, and possibly more important to your dispatchers.
Before you Buy
- Which material is best for my dispatch console, wood or steel?
- Best heating and cooling options for dispatch consoles
- Germ warfare: Do anti-microbial laminates promote health in PSAPs?
- The myth of the ergonomic edge
- Treadmills at your dispatch console: the good, the bad, the ugly
- Dispatch Console Resources